But warns that fight against fraud and corruption in the public and private sectors is not yet over.
IN HIS weekly letter to South Africans, President Cyril Ramaphosa has thanked the work of the State Capture Commission, and its chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, three years after it called its first witness.
Last week, with the conclusion of Ramaphosa’s testimony, the commission essentially completed its work.
“This is a significant milestone that brings us ever closer to a reckoning with one of the most ruinous episodes in the history of our democracy,” said Ramaphosa.
The commission was established as part of the remedial actions by former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture Report” which detailed the looting of public funds, spearheaded by the Gupta family – friends of former president Jacob Zuma.
Part of the remedial action was that Zuma’s deputy – Ramaphosa, at the time – appoint a judge to chair the commission to probe state capture. Zuma challenged Madonsela’s recommendations in the Constitutional Court where he lost.
Ramaphosa said: “Over the course of three years, we have heard testimony detailing alleged acts of corruption on a massive scale. We have heard about actions that resulted in the theft of billions of rands of public money. We have heard how many public institutions and state-owned companies were deliberately weakened”.
He said South Africa owes a debt of gratitude to those who were involved in the work of the commission, including the journalists “who diligently reported on the proceedings; to the lawyers who helped present evidence”.
“State capture did not end of its own accord. It was brought to an end by the concerted actions of South Africans from all walks of life, working in various areas to restore the values of our constitutional democracy. And it is up to all of us to ensure that these practices are never allowed to happen again,” said Ramaphosa.
Since taking office in February 2018, Ramaphosa said his government had taken several steps to take on corruption and state capture and had rebuilt the National Prosecuting Authority, the SAPS, SARS, and others which were hollowed out to facilitate state capture during the Zuma years.
“We have set up new structures, like the Investigating Directorate in the NPA to prosecute high-level corruption and the SIU Special Tribunal to recover stolen public funds. We have improved our crime-fighting capacity through the establishment of the Fusion Centre, which brings together various law enforcement agencies to share information and coordinate the investigation and prosecution of crime,” said Ramaphosa.
He said much of the work in fighting corruption was ongoing and that there had been areas where progress had been far slower than had been hoped.
“The findings and recommendations of the commission will undoubtedly strengthen these efforts. We expect that the commission will identify some of the systemic weaknesses that allowed state capture to take place. This will empower us to take further corrective measures,” said Ramaphosa.
He said that while his government has tackled state capture, fraud and corruption remained pervasive and deeply entrenched in the public and private sectors.
“Such criminal activities cost our country greatly, weaken our institutions and deprive South Africans of many basic needs,” said Ramaphosa.